Rus­sell Nor­man shells out for peas

Esquire (UK) - - Contents - By Rus­sell Nor­man

“We lived very sim­ply — but with all the essen­tials of life well un­der­stood and pro­vided for — hot baths, cold Cham­pagne, new peas and old brandy” — Win­ston Churchill

Civil­i­sa­tion has a lot to an­swer for. When the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion picked up pace at the start of the 19th cen­tury, we burned fos­sil fuels with aban­don, rub­bing our hands to­gether glee­fully and con­grat­u­lat­ing our­selves on our mas­tery of science, ad­vance­ment of in­dus­try and in­creased wealth. Mech­a­nised pro­duc­tion, steam tur­bines, in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines — we had it all and we were go­ing to damn well use it wher­ever we jolly well could.

Fast for­ward 200 years and we have flat­tened the rain­forests, de­stroyed the coral reefs, dis­solved the ozone layer and poi­soned the oceans with plas­tic. Worse still, half the planet is dy­ing from hunger or treat­able dis­eases while the other half has an obe­sity cri­sis and patents the drugs the first half need.

Al­though civil­i­sa­tion’s food crimes are cer­tainly less heinous, they are none­the­less still up­set­ting. In­stant cof­fee: I’m look­ing at you. A prod­uct that bears such scant re­sem­blance to the source ma­te­rial, it re­ally de­serves a dif­fer­ent name. Bran flakes: what the hell is go­ing on there? Hu­man­ity has some­how man­aged to cre­ate a break­fast ce­real that tastes ex­actly like card­board. (I don’t even know, hand on heart, what bran flakes are made from. Is it saw­dust?) And Spam: just don’t get me started. The philistines be­hind the in­ven­tion of this Franken­stein’s mon­ster of a food­stuff de­serve noth­ing less than be­ing fed into the grinders that pro­duce it. Even the word makes me shud­der. Is it a port­man­teau of “spu­tum” and “ham”?

To this month’s in­gre­di­ent: the pea.

Such a joy­ous ex­pres­sion of the English sum­mer. Ver­dant, vi­brant veg­eta­bles that are so thrillingly sweet that the best way to eat them is raw, straight from the pod, while still stand­ing in your wellies in the veg patch. The sat­is­fy­ing pop as you bite into fresh peas makes me beam from ear to ear. Peas are the best ex­am­ple I know of the majesty of na­ture; pure per­fec­tion in the plant king­dom. Why then, dear God, would you de­cide to in­car­cer­ate them in a can? Tinned peas are the most com­pelling in­di­ca­tion that civil­i­sa­tion has lost its way. Fur­ther­more, if I were a re­li­gious man, I might say they were proof that Satan is real.

Today’s recipe is a glo­ri­ous cel­e­bra­tion of flavours us­ing the last of the sum­mer’s English peas with plump, sweet scal­lops. It’s a heav­enly col­lab­o­ra­tion that I first en­coun­tered in the Nineties at Row­ley Leigh’s ground-break­ing Not­ting Hill restau­rant, Kens­ing­ton Place.

Like all per­fect part­ner­ships, it stays in the gus­ta­tory me­mory long af­ter the taste has dwin­dled. Come to think of it, it’d go rather nicely with Churchill’s sug­ges­tion of a glass of cold Cham­pagne, too.

Peas are the best ex­am­ple I know of the majesty of na­ture; pure per­fec­tion in the plant king­dom

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